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Leavitt: I am pro-pluralism
Photo: Danny Machlis
BGU president. Standing firm
Photo: Danny Machlis
ACRI: Lecturer's rights violated
Various social groups outraged at dismissal of lecturer who made anti-gay comments in class

Ben Gurion University's dismissal of Dr. Yeruham Leavitt, a lecturer and resident of the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba who made anti-gay remarks during class, sparked outrage among many groups in Israeli society Sunday.

 

Leavitt's wife, however, is apparently not in agreement with his views. A doctor and lecturer at the same university, June Leavitt is also the author of 'Falling Star', a novel about an Orthodox girl who discovers she is a lesbian.

 

Leavitt, who is currently in Japan, told Ynet he was in favor of pluralism and equality. "In my many lectures on medical bioethics I have always tried to instill pluralistic culture while stressing multiple opinions and making them heard in a respectable fashion," he said.

 

Leavitt, 70, has five children and leads a secular lifestyle. He is among the founders of the university's school of pharmaceutics, and has previously participated in fundraisers for populations in need of medical aid in Asia. He is also an advocator of educational cooperation with the Bedouin population in southern Israel.

 

However none of these qualities convinced BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi to overturn the decision to relieve Leavitt of his position.

 

"This behavior is academically improper and has no relevance to freedom," Carmi said. "Because the issue was discussed in a thorough fashion and even included a hearing held for the lecturer, the management stands behind its decision."

 

Protocols of the teaching committee meeting on Leavitt's case, some of which were obtained by Ynet, say three students who were present during the fateful class were hurt by the lecturer's remarks, and complained against him. A number of female students were also offended when Leavitt said he managed to control himself despite being "attracted to all women".

 

Leavitt made the comment in order to show that all sexual urges could be overcome, including homosexual ones, but some members of the committee convened to discuss his case perceived it as chauvinist. Leavitt apologized later.

 

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel was quick to side with the professor. "Academic freedom is also the freedom to express oneself outrageously – especially when regarding opinion," Hagai Elad, the organization's CEO, told Ynet. He added that the association planned to demand the university reverse its decision.

 

The right-wing Legal Forum for the Land of Israel also sided with Leavitt, and sent a letter to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar saying the professor's basic rights had been violated.

 

The forum mentioned another BGU lecturer, Neve Gordon, who called for a global boycott against Israel. "The institution's management decided not to dismiss him for his remarks," the letter said. "Even if the university does not support (Leavitt's) opinions, it still cannot violate his rights."

 

An additional right-wing voice that arose to support Leavitt was that of the university's Im Tirtzu movement, which stated that "it turns out that when lecturers dare to express an opinion that doesn't align with the management's 'mainstream' opinion, they pay the price with their positions".

 

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